The Tour of Britain's organisers have unveiled the course for the 2010 edition of the race (September 11-18), dubbing it the "hardest" in the event's seven year history.
British squad Team Sky is expected to form part of the 16-team peloton, although the race's proximity to the International Cycling Union (UCI) World Championships is likely to see Britain's top riders skip the eight-stage tour in favour of the Vuelta a España.
The 1,223-kilometre Tour of Britain route released on Tuesday will see a 96-rider peloton take in broad stretches of the United Kingdom's east and west coasts. The race will commence in Rochdale, north of Manchester, with the first of eight stages concluding on the coast at Blackpool. Stages two to five will see the race make its way south down the western seaboard, with Stoke-on-Trent, the Welsh city of Swansea, Teignmouth and Glastonbury all scheduled to host stage finishes.
The Welsh-based stage three from Newtown to Swansea will be the first of the three toughest days of the Tour, with the peloton to get little respite as it navigates its way 151-kilometres across the hilly Welsh landscape and past the Brecon mountain range.
"We are delighted to be bringing the race back into Wales this year and look forward to a tough stage into Swansea this year," said the Tour's technical director Michael Bennett, of the stage that will see the event visit Wales for the first time since its inaugural edition in 2004.
Stages four (171 km) and five (176 km) will continue to keep the climbers happy as they make traverses across the counties of Somerset and Devon.
The peloton will then have to make a long transfer to the eastern side of the British landmass for a 189-kilometre stage from Kyng's Lynn to Great Yarmouth, which will be followed by the penultimate stage from Bury St Edmunds to Colchester (151 km). It is the first time the race will have visited the region.
"This year’s event sees the Tour of Britain race into several new regional venues, and for the first time ever we will have two stages take place in the East of England region, bringing the race to new audiences in Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex,” said Bennett.
For the second year in a row, the race will conclude with a circuit race in the English capital, London. However, the 100-kilometre final stage will take place on a new course within the London borough of Newham, the site of the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Home or away? British Worlds team likely to favour Spain
While organisers of the Tour of Britain are confident of a attracting some big names to the 96-rider field, Britain's top riders Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) and Bradley Wiggins (Sky) are likely to instead race at the Vuelta a España, as they prepare for their respective objectives at the 2010 World Championships.
Cavendish has stated that the road race at the Australian-based World Championships is one of his major season goals, while Wiggins will again be a favourite for the individual time trial title. Professionals often consider the Spanish Grand Tour to be the ideal preparation for the Worlds, as the three-week tour allows riders to reach a peak in time for the title races a week after the finish in Madrid.
Wiggins was quick to rule himself out of this year's race following the announcement, writing on Twitter: "No TT again in race around Britain, looks like a race for the sprinter again, looks like Vuelta this year then."
The 2009 Tour of Britain was won by Edvald Boasson Hagen (HTC-Columbia). The Norwegian claimed four consecutive stage wins on his way to a 23 second general classification victory ahead of Chris Sutton (Garmin-Slipstream) and Martin Reimer (Cervélo TestTeam), who finished two seconds further back.
Stage list for the 2010 Tour of Britain:
- Stage 1 – Rochdale to Blackpool (126 km), Saturday, September 11, 2010
- Stage 2 – Stoke-on-Trent (160 km), Sunday, September 12, 2010
- Stage 3 – Newtown to Swansea (150 km), Monday, September 13, 2010
- Stage 4 – Minehead to Teignmouth (171km), Tuesday, September 14, 2010
- Stage 5 – Tavistock to Glastonbury (176 km), Wednesday, September 15, 2010
- Stage 6 – King's Lynn to Great Yarmouth (189 km), Thursday, September 16, 2010
- Stage 7 – Bury St Edmunds to Colchester (151km), Friday, September 17, 2010
- Stage 8 – London (100 km), Saturday, September 18, 2010